A stroll through the Red Deer Public Market may provide one of the clues why the city continues to have fewer cases of COVID19 than many other Alberta centres.
As the greeter for the past five months at the outdoor market, Morris Flewwelling said more than 60 per cent of people wore masks, which experts say is necessary to bending the curve.
“I think people have respected the science,” said the former Red Deer mayor.
“There was high compliance with both masks and hand sanitizer. Over the course of the summer, I don’t suppose I had 10 confrontations who went out of their way to be difficult or ugly or snarky.”
He said he handed out about 400 masks when the market supplied them.
“Some people said ‘no thank you.’ Many people said ‘thank you very much.’ The most refusals I had were from women 20 to 40 years old. Older people were quite compliant.”
He noticed those who shopped early were more co-operative than later arrivals, who came out more for the social experience. Also, young families were particularly careful.
“When parents come with small children, the children are wearing masks and they stick out their hands for sanitizer. They know the drill,” said Flewwelling about the market, which ends for the season Saturday.
City Coun. Lawrence Lee agreed Red Deerians are self-disciplined when it comes to protecting against COVID.
“We really quickly responded when the news came out. I know a lot of Red Deerians were very cautious, almost compulsive, about washing their hands and cleaning packaging going in and out of their house,” Lee said.
He said now we know that surfaces, such as car doors or ATM buttons, are not the biggest transmission zones, and people just need to keep learning and evolving.
“Red Deerians just have to keep doing what they are doing. It’s obviously paid huge dividends in where we are today. With Thanksgiving coming, I just hope we don’t get fatigued. A lot of communities are getting fatigued,” Lee said.
Karen Mann, the city’s emergency management co-ordinator, said she didn’t want to speculate on how the city has maintained a low number of COVID cases, but said having fewer cases is a signal for residents to keep doing what they’re doing.
“We believe our residents have been focused on those public health measures and keeping each other safe. Whether that’s the primary reason, we can’t say, but we have to believe it’s part of the reason and it will continue to be important moving forward,” Mann said.
City Coun. Michael Dawe said fewer outbreaks in Red Deer have likely helped keep COVID at bay.
“What we’re seeing in some other communities are some very sizable outbreaks, not only in seniors’ care facilities that have cost a lot of lives, but also in some hospitals,” Dawe said.
Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has only been impacted by a small outbreak, and Waskasoo Towers also experienced a couple of cases.
Dawe said concern about the pandemic putting extra strain on the hospital may not be the reason why Red Deerians are being vigilant about COVID, but it should be.
“Anybody who tries to claim that the Red Deer Hospital doesn’t have some really serious capacity issues is just not facing reality,” Dawe said.
Flewwelling said efforts by the local business community have also played a role in shielding the city; for example, avoiding the kind of outbreaks that happened at meat plants in High River and Brooks.
“I’ve been very impressed Olymel didn’t get caught in that,” Flewwelling said.
Lee said workers are ready to do their part as well.
“The work ethic around here, it’s a spill over in what you see in agriculture. People are hard workers, and show up for work and do the work they can,” Lee said.